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With Donald Penn back from injury who should start at left tackle for the Raiders?

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NFL: Oakland Raiders Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders have placed the franchise in a peculiar position at the left tackle spot. Kolton Miller, was drafted with the 15th pick to be the successor to pro bowl left tackle Donald Penn. Today, Penn was activated off the PUP list and returned to practice, setting up the question of who starts at left tackle?

Conventional wisdom would suggest Penn, who is much more accomplished, should start at such a pivotal position of blindside protector. Protecting quarterback Derek Carr, is the number one priority for this team, because they go as he goes. Over the course of Penn’s last 4 seasons with the Raiders, he has missed two regular season games (both last year). Producing at the highest level, he’s been a three-time pro-bowler and a constant at the position. Hell, he’s even a threat to catch the football on a tackle eligible play. Penn has seen and achieved success against the best this league has to offer.

Furthermore keeping the pairing of Penn and guard Kelechi Osemele together would be the ideal situation in terms of familiarity and consistency. The left side of the Raiders line has been in Pro-Bowl consideration for two of the last three years. Messing with a good thing is usually a bad idea, but given changes in circumstances it may be necessary.

At this point in his career Penn is still the premier offensive tackle on this roster. Age and injury may very well be catching up to him, but there is no substitute for experience. He is aware of the transitional process going on at the left tackle position and has done everything he can to help the rookie improve.

Miller, is a rookie. Starting rookies has a risk factor involved. Miller would be required to keep Carr on his feet and be his executive protector.

In terms of practice, Miller has spent every down of his professional career at left tackle. His daily NFL life consisting of learning the playbook, working to overcome issues with his footwork, and improving his technique.

Last season at UCLA was the first of his career at left tackle. With phenomenal size and a penchant for working on his craft, Miller can be a dominant bookend for the next decade; however, he needs reps in order to get better.

Miller has proven to be susceptible to the spin move, have cement shoes, and needs work blocking the faster twitched defensive players.

Khalil Mack’s camp holdout has impacted Miller’s development and the teams ability to assess just what exactly they have in him. Being able to practice one-on-one against Mack, was thought to be crucial to his progressing rapidly. What’s most important about Miller’s current flaws is they are all correctable. If he is the future, we need to see more improvements to his game like this.

Practicality has been the agenda of the front office and coaching staff this off-season and this is why I believe Penn should play on the right side, leaving Miller as the starter on the left side.

Gruden has mentioned Miller is the starting left tackle of the future, but with Penn taking a pay cut and returning from injury perhaps the future isn’t now. It’s possible Miller could be moved to the right side and it’s equally possible the team could determine he needs more work and he backs up Penn.

It would be eerily reminiscent of a ‘Del-Rioan’ disaster which involves asking players to switch positions and do things they aren’t comfortable doing.

Asking Miller to switch back to playing right tackle this far into the offseason/preseason could be detrimental to the development of the rookie. Asking Penn to play the right side is only marginally better because he has played it in this league and his footwork is superior at this time.

In order for Miller to become what they want him to be, he must get every opportunity to play and gain experience. When Miller was drafted it was intentionally stated that he was to be the left tackle of the future.

In today’s NFL, the dominant pass rushers primarily rush from the strong-side of the offensive formation. The reasoning behind it, typically the weaker pass protection option is on the right side.

The Raiders’ options at right tackle are limited. In spite of what you may hear, Breno Giacomini was brought in to start. Since Giacomini’s injury at the beginning of camp, the position of right tackle has had a vacancy and been incapable of finding an occupier.

Should the Raiders keep Miller at the position they expect him to hold down for the foreseeable future or let him learn behind Penn? Should the team start Penn at a position he has played before, or go with other options they may not be in love with?

Poll

Who should the Oakland Raiders start at left tackle

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Kolton Miller, the future
    (750 votes)
  • 52%
    Donald Penn, the seasoned vet
    (828 votes)
1578 votes total Vote Now